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the bass and the tweeters make the speakers go to war
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
((Hansel Williams, Tears in the Rain))

Four corpses were in sight from his perch on the railing of the gazebo, in varying degrees of decay. The stench railed and wafted into his nostrils, causing his eyes to water as his legs swung free, hindered only by the gun on his lap. He couldn’t help but feel a kinship with the dead after eleven days of being surrounded by them, reminded of them, adding to them. Four didn’t seem that significant of a number given the dozens and dozens of students that had fallen here - on the island that had once existed, drawn life, created. Once, this island had inhabitants - men and women and children. It was a place with beautiful statues, well-stocked hospitals, a power plant that had seen workers clock in, clock out, produce, contribute. Earn.

This once-functioning, breathing, creating collection of plant and animal and structure, reduced to a mass grave of over a hundred kids.

Hansel sat, his hands folded over his FAMAS - one over the other, rough skin on rougher gauze - and stared at the macabre sight, wondering about the last thoughts that ran through someone’s head when they died. Was there contentedness, any sorrow? Did you get a few moments - a brief interlude - to review and collect yourself before facing what followed? Or was it just blackness - candles snuffed in the wind?

If they had died for something, if there had been method to the madness, it was lost to him amidst the running, the fighting, the destruction and chaos. The once-habitable island was scorched earth and shallow graves, dark memories and landmines. All that had mattered, all that he’d focused on, was standing on another’s shoulders until he could reach the top.

He turned the FAMAS over in his hands, feeling cold steel and polyester mingling together, running his calloused fingers over the sleek, streamlined design. He dipped into the trigger guard, circled the safety - now, forever, switched off - dragged nails down the stock until he circled the barrel. His touch was absent, scattered, his gaze on the body of Matt Masters as he felt the weight of the gun against his knees and the texture of it at his fingertips. With it, as he stroked and weighed, he felt six different gunshots - six moments suspended in time - that came with it.

He supposed that this gun, the gun they had given him, would be considered - what, his signature? Some sort of symbol, gained from his struggle against classmates for reasons that he didn’t understand - couldn’t comprehend?

He flipped the gun over. The other side was warm from his legs, sapped of body heat. He considered.

There was nobody else to blame for this - what he’d done, what they’d all done. Presented with the option between all dying or most, they’d chosen the more pragmatic answer: kill or be killed, destroy or be destroyed. On paper, in the broad spectrum, it was the better answer, the morally just one. Save as many as you could, one life secured better than none.

Hansel hopped off the gazebo ledge and landed in the grass unsteadily, knees bending with the soft thud of boots on damp earth. In the process, in the journey from nobody living to one surviving, things within them cracked and moulded, shifted and changed in brittle chrysalides that leaked their former glory. In the mad dash to be the one - the single, solitary living amongst a sea of dead - they’d lost everything.

Hansel laid the FAMAS against the gazebo, taking care to ensure it was at a forty-five degree angle. The least he could do, the absolute minimum he could accomplish, would be ensuring that they got nothing back. No returning tools, no iconic weaponry.

No legacy.

The first time boot met metal and polyester, it resulted in a clang and a scrape - noises that he felt resonate up his leg. The second time, the dirt gave way, sinking the stock of the gun into the soft ground. The third time, the barrel of the FAMAS bent at a right ankle, sliding the rifle that had served him well, that had helped him climb the ladder of fucking bottom feeders all scrabbling for purchase on a wall paved with the worst fucking intentions, further down. By the ninth slam of boot on gun, the FAMAS was unrecognizable, unusable - a twisty, scarred mess.

He stared at it. Reached behind him to pull the Winchester from battered pack to battered palms. Slammed the lever-action back, primed the gun to fire. He took a moment. Sighted the sky. Drank down the putrid air. Noted the cameras and their beady, glassy eyes.

He took a moment.

Then, he pressed the Winchester against the FAMAS’s trigger mechanism, metal on metal, and said goodbye to the six faces who’d fallen at the weapon’s maw.

He straightened, ejecting the casing with a click-clack of the lever, and looked around the park as the gunshot echoed, his location signaled to the others - Joey, Zubin, Mara - who were undoubtedly on their way. He shrank back against the gazebo, back to the wall, weapon at the ready.

Three more obstacles to overcome, he thought.

Then, for better or for worse, he’d have his life.
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Paradise · Central Park (Endgame)